<EM>American Idol </EM>runner-up Katharine McPhee American Idol runner-up Katharine McPhee

If you must, take issue with a man whose main descriptor is "prematurely gray" for being crowned the new and exciting American Idol. Or pin the blame on an "electromagnetic anomaly" possibly having played havoc with the text-messaged vote-counting. But whatever you do in lamenting Katharine McPhee's second-place finish, shed no tears for the 21-year-old beauty. "I don't need any sad faces," Kat told reporters backstage after the Fox megahit's Wednesday-night results show. "I got a record deal, I got a new car, and I have all these great fans and wonderful people in my life. It would really just be silly to feel bad for me at this point."

Katharine says that up until the very final moments before Ryan Seacrest divulged the name inside the envelope, she was hedging her bets. "I didn't think I was going to win," she says. "I figured, if I do, it will be great. If I don't, it'll still be great."

As for why Taylor Hicks took the title instead of her, Katharine allows that even the might of her Los Angeles hometown couldn't match up to the grassroots avidness of her rival's Birmingham backers. "You probably do get a little bit of an advantage being from a small town, or just the South," she says. "I mean, going to Graceland, where we got to meet all these fans, people are just different. It's this whole other thing. Everyone out in L.A... they're all jaded now, you know what I mean?"

With but a week to herself before rehearsals begin for Idol's summer tour  which was just extended by 15 cities and three weeks  Katharine is looking forward to kicking back with friends in New York, then perhaps a mini-getaway to "someplace tropical."

"I want to get a little sun for a couple of days," she says, "and just relax."

In response to questions in the press room, Katharine also had this to say about...

... her very first helping of Meat Loaf:
"I found out a few weeks before the finale [that he would be dueting on the finale]. I knew the name, but I didn't know what he looked like. He's this theatrical rocker dude! I've had a lot of theatrical experience in my life because I went to school for musical theater, but we was like a whole different level. He warned me, "I do things full-out every time." As soon as I brought the theatrical stakes up, we evened each other out. It was a cool piece."

... "My Destiny" (her first single, not her actual destiny)
"I actually really like it. It's a great, traditional pop ballad. I don't think that's going to be the overall sound of my album when it comes out, but it did its job [recounting] my journey on American Idol."

... emulating another pretty woman:
"Julia Roberts is a wonderful person and someone I'd like to model my career after, even though she's not a singer. I definitely want to do movies. I know it's a cliché that every singer wants to be an actress and every actress wants to be a singer, but these are the things that I want, and we'll see how they play out."

... the very best thing about her Idol experience:
"Getting to touch people's lives. That's the thing about celebrity  yeah, it's great that you get all these clothes and your hair and makeup done, but celebrity should be used to touch people and reach them in a way that you wouldn't reach them [otherwise]. I really look forward to doing that."

Additional reporting by Michael Maloney